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A Scheme for India-EU Interactions

Context

  • In addition to its 75th anniversary of independence, India celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations with the European Union (EU).
  • Despite its disagreements with the West over the Ukraine crisis, India’s presence as a guest at the recent G-7 summit demonstrates the country’s growing weight in global discussions.
  • The European Union and India, as the world’s two largest democracies, share a commitment to protect and promote human rights, a rules-based global order, effective multilateralism, sustainable development, and open trade.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements, India-EU relations etc

Mains Question

In the current geopolitical environment, the EU and India appear to be natural partners, and they must capitalise on existing opportunities. Discuss. (250 Words)


Brief history

  • Relations began: A cooperation agreement signed in 1994 expanded the bilateral relationship beyond trade and economic cooperation.
  • Summit diplomacy: The first India-EU Summit in 2000 was a watershed moment in the relationship’s evolution.
  • Restored relations: At the fifth India-EU Summit in 2004, the relationship was elevated to “Strategic Partnership.”
    • In 2005, the two sides agreed on a Joint Action Plan to strengthen dialogue and consultation mechanisms in the political and economic spheres, increase trade and investment, and bring peoples and cultures together.
  • Most recent summit: In July 2020, the 15th India-EU Summit provided a common road map to guide joint action and further strengthen the partnership over the next five years, highlighting engagement across five domains as follows:
    • Foreign policy and security cooperation
    • Trade and economy
    • Partnership for sustainable modernization
    • Global governance
    • Interpersonal relationships

The Importance of India-EU Relations

  • Trading partner: After the United States, the EU is India’s second largest trading partner and the second largest destination for Indian exports. In 2021-22, bilateral trade between the two countries will exceed $116 billion.
  • Employment: In India, 6,000 European companies directly and indirectly employ 7 million people.
  • Defense sector: A significant increase in India-EU defence cooperation is critical for India to reduce its hardware dependence on Russia in the context of the Ukraine conflict and seek diversification of its armament imports from other regions with cutting-edge technologies in the aftermath of its conflict with China.
    • India and the EU conduct joint military and naval exercises on a regular basis, reflecting their commitment to a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific order.
    • In 2021, the first maritime security dialogue was held, with a focus on collaboration in maritime domain awareness, capacity-building, and joint naval activities.
    • France’s delivery of 36 Rafale fighter jets and willingness to offer the Indian Navy Barracuda nuclear attack submarines reflects a growing level of trust in their relationships.
    • Leading European defence equipment manufacturers are eager to collaborate with Indian firms on defence projects aligned with the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
  • Environment Sector: India and the EU have several collaboration avenues that will serve as a catalyst for increased cooperation.
    • For example, India and Denmark’s ‘Green Strategic Partnership’ aims to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
    • The India-Nordic Summit in May 2022 will focus on green technologies and industry transformation, which are critical for long-term and inclusive growth.
  • Innovation ecosystem: The Science and Technology Joint Steering Committee of India and the EU focuses on areas such as healthcare, artificial intelligence, and earth sciences. o In 2020, the European Atomic Energy Community and the Government of India signed an agreement for R&D cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Challenges

  • Russia: One point of contention has been India’s reluctance to explicitly condemn Russia’s intervention in Ukraine while increasing economic cooperation with Russia.
  • Uncertainty about China: There is also uncertainty about the EU’s strategy for dealing with China’s rise. The EU’s lacklustre response during the Galwan clash is an example.
    • The EU could skillfully leverage India’s economic, political, and demographic weight to counterbalance China’s influence across the region, but the EU appears hesitant.

Conclusion

• India and the EU should not let disagreements overshadow their many points of agreement. The proactive restart of the ambitious India-EU free trade and investment agreement in 2021 is a positive step. • European partners recognise India as an important pillar in ensuring Indo-Pacific stability. India and the EU are both political and economic poles in an increasingly multipolar world, and their ability to collaborate can thus shape global outcomes.


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September 2022
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